Thursday, January 31, 2013

Science of Valentine's Day

Every week, Madison (my 10-year old daughter) and I teach a 1.5-hour afterschool science club for K-2nd graders.  Each week she helps plan the lesson and then write the blog about what we did. 

We have provided links to the books we used to sneak in some literacy.  We learned most of the science experiments and activities from Steve Spangler (awesome speaker and science guy extraordinaire).  We have included links to his science supplies, experiments, and videos.  We have also included links to our YouTube videos. These links take you away from the blog and to external websites.

Lesson 17
Science of Valentine’s Day

Science Standards Addressed:
  • Identify human organs and their function (Heart).
  •  Know that when substances are combined, they may create new substances with different properties (Carnation and Secret Valentine Messages).
  •  Observe that magnets attract and repel each other (Kissing Bears and Stick it to Me).
  • Know that bacteria and viruses are germs that can be transmitted (by coughing or KISSING!)
  • Describes ways of spreading germs (Simulated Germs & Mono).
  • Know that air takes up space and exerts a force (Heart-Shaped Peeps).

Plus we snuck in some speaking and listening standards like asking questions, expressing ideas, following multi-step directions, and participating in discussions.

Snack – The heart is the image, the icon of Valentine’s Day.  So for snack, we snacked on a human heart. 
Don’t freak out, we didn’t go all Hannibal Lecter or anything.  We found this cool gelatin mold of the human heart, and whipped up a batch of peach-flavored gelatin with some evaporated milk and food coloring to give it the disgusting look of flesh!

It looked gross, but we sure enjoyed dissecting and eating it!
As they ate we played the song, Take Another Piece of My Heart, by Janis Joplin; and Achy Breaky Heart, by Billy Ray Cyrus.  We’re so funny.
I Heart Science!
Hearts are an obvious theme for Valentine’s Day.  We were surprised how many kids were surprised to see the shape of a real heart. 
We heard one of the kids say, “Wow that (model) is NOTHING like the
shape of a REAL heart!”
We created a model to demo the pumping action of a heart by putting red colored water in a clear balloon. We put a straw in the balloon and gently squeezed to see the “blood” pump with each squeeze.

Red Hand Demo & Pink Carnation demo To start things off with some WOW, we did some cool demos. To really get them into it we created an imaginary situation.  We told them that scientists thought it was horrible that when people needed to donate blood or have blood drawn for testing they had to be JABBED with needles – Ouch!  Then we told them that scientists had developed a special chemical.  Now we only have to spray it on our skin, and the blood runs to the surface where it can be collected.  They didn’t believe us at first (because we’ve tricked them too many times before). Then we sprayed the chemical on one hand.  We pretended that it was a little bit painful – “actually this stings a little – ow.”  We told them we could feel the blood coming to the surface. 

We put our hand on a sheet of gold paper, lifted it off, and
revealed a dark blood-red handprint.
  They could not believe their eyes!
Then we revealed the science secret! The secret is all about the special GOLDENROD paper and the ammonia we sprayed on our hands.
The paper is an acid-base indicator that turns bright red when exposed to a base (ammonia).  If you wave the paper in the air or blow on it, it will quickly change back because of the slightly acidic carbon dioxide in the air.
The secret was some phenolphthalein – an acid/base indicator that turns a
dark pink when exposed to the ammonia (base).
Valentine’s Day is all about showing love and sometimes we do this with flowers.  We showed the kids a little white carnation we had.  We agreed it was pretty, but white wasn’t the best color for Valentine’s Day.  We sprayed a little of the ammonia on the carnation and it turned red – Ta Da!
 This showed them some cool chemistry, but also that when you mix two substances, you sometimes get something with entirely different properties.  Clear liquid plus white flower yields BRIGHT PINK!
Goldenrod Human Heart
First we showed the kids some human heart models and described the path the blood takes as the heart pumps. To sneak in some exercise, we let the kids measure their resting heart rates with a stethoscope. Then we had them run in place for 1 minute and measure their heart rates again!
We printed this image of a heart right onto pieces of goldenrod paper. 
The kids dipped Q-tips in ammonia solution and drew the path of blood as we described it.  First deoxygenated blood comes in from the body into the right auricle, through the valve into the right ventricle, and out to the lungs for oxygen.  Then it returns from the lungs to the heart entering the left auricle, through the valve into the left ventricle and out the aorta to the body. 
As the kids traced this path, the paper turned a blood red color.
Secret Valentine Messages
We cut this special Goldenrod Paper into heart shapes. We snuck in a little literacy-building by having them all write secret love messages with clear or yellow crayons.
Then we let them spray some ammonia solution on the paper. 
Pumping Marshmallow Hearts

Since it is Valentine’s Day we found some heart-shaped Peeps. Then, my dad bought a nice (expensive) vacuum packing food saver on the way to school just for this experiment.  My mom rolled her eyes.

You can find cheaper models that will work just fine on the Internet. They are great for exploring the properties of air pressure.
 We filled the storage container with heart-shaped marshmallow Peeps and removed a lot of the air.

The hearts got BIG!

Then we reversed the process by placing them in a vacuum bag and squashed them down with atmospheric pressure.

Mono Hot Love Bug and Toss a Germ
Kissing can be hazardous to your health.  Pucker up and you might catch this little bug – the Epstein-Barr Virus. It is spread mainly via the transfer of saliva between individuals, which is the reason that mononucleosis – Mono - glandular fever has been dubbed the “kissing disease.”
We found this little plush model of the Epstein-Barr Virus
To have plus and build a sense of community we played classic Hot Potato with this toy while playing Love Me Tender, by Elvis Presley.  When the music stopped, the one caught holding the Kissing Disease germ had MONO – we all said “Ooh Gross” – and then played again.
Then we played a little toss-a-germ.  We stood in an informal circle.  Madison began by saying her own name and then calling out someone else’s name anywhere in the circle and tossed the germ to him.  That player called out another name and lofts the germ to another person and so on.  We started the circle small and had them step back, expanding the circle, then moved closer until it was too close to play. Once we accomplished the task successfully; we gave them five seconds to move to a new spot in the circle.  Then we played again, passing the germ in the same name pattern as before.
Simulated Germs

To get deeper into the science of germs, we pumped a little glob of Simulated Glow Germs on their hands.  We asked them to rub the “lotion” into their hands making sure to get the backs of their palms and fingernails.  Then we asked them to wash their hands the way they normally do before eating snack.  Then, we put their hands back under a black light.

Link to Glo Germ
You could see glowing “germs” all over their hands – especially in between their fingers and in their fingernails.  We taught them how to wash their hands: by scrubbing EVERY surface of their hands for the same amount of time it takes them to sing Happy Birthday to themselves FOUR times!

Then we put their hands under the black light again.  It was much better this time, but there were still some germs that did not get scrubbed away.  After one more round of hand washing, no more Glow Germ showed up, and we mercifully let them eat snack.

LOVE Meters:
We told the kids that we had some cool devices that detect how much LOVE they had inside them.  The first one was a Hand Boiler.  We gave them this long speech about how fragile these things are.  We went on and on about how carefully you must hold them.  We told them that they are so fragile, even squeezing them too hard might break them.  We slowly unwrapped the first one.  We showed them how to handle it.  We slowly started handing it to one of the kids.  A different child who was so excited, he couldn’t contain himself jumped up and knocked the entire thing out of our hands, shattering the glass, and sending the liquid everywhere.
He felt really bad and we told him that everything was OK.  Nobody got hurt. Everyone makes mistakes and the thing to do is learn by them.  He promised to be VERY careful and to slow down and we let him try it again.
They all wrapped their hands around the bulbs at the bottom.  The heat in their hands warms the air, which presses on the liquid, forcing it to “boil” up to the top.  They all had plenty of love inside them. Pretty cool!
We told them that the next love detector would detect the level of love in the group.  If we linked our hands and stood in a circle, this device would clearly show if the electricity of love was flowing through us. Then we revealed the Energy Ball – a little ping-pong ball with two small electrodes.  When the electrodes are touched, it flashes and makes a weird buzzing sound. After the pretend play, we talked a little about open and closed electrical circuits and let everyone take turns being the “switch.”
Opposites Attract: Kissing Bears = Magnets
We showed them these cute kissing bears asked the kids what was making them kiss.  They all knew they were magnets.
To prime them for our upcoming unit on magnetism, we asked them to write something that they already knew about magnets on little heart-shaped sticky notes.
As they finished, we asked them to stick it to us!  They literally stuck their sticky notes on us.  They really loved putting them on our faces.
Pink Snow
As a grand finale’ we got out the Insta-Snow.
We went through the science of atoms, molecules, and polymers.  We reminded of the super-absorbent polymers we worked with in diapers and our growing alligators.  We used molecular models to show them exactly how the polymers absorbs water and expands tremendously.  Insta-Snow always gets lots of “Ooh’s and Aah’s!”
Scientific Valentines
As a parting give we gave them all scientific valentines we found at a department store.  They contained super absorbent polymers.  When we saw them on the shelf, we couldn’t believe our eyes – a SCIENCE VALLENTINE??? 
Then we turned over the box and saw the familiar Steve Spangler Science logo
and thought, “of course!”


  1. For Valentine's Day, I made my family grits and eggs using heart-shaped cookie cutters and red food coloring. My kids wouldn't eat it because they felt weird eating hearts. I can't imagine how they would have reacted to the gelatin mold of the heart! I think it looks very cool, though.

  2. Funny. Some of them enthusiastically gobbled and some of them tentatively nibbled with hilarious expressions on their faces.

  3. Thanks for sharing this useful info. Keep updating same way.
    Regards,Ashish Training and consultancy


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